EU Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said yesterday that the European Union should make a decision on transferring the additional 3 billion euros to Turkey for refugees in the country as soon as possible. "The Turkey-EU migrant agreement reached two years ago reduced the migrant influx from the Eastern Mediterranean by 97 percent. Thanks to our agreement with Turkey there has been a significant drop in the number of migrants dying while trying to cross to Europe," Avramopoulos said in a press conference. The commissioner stressed that both sides should continue to do whatever is expected from them. Turkey and the EU signed an agreement on March 18, 2016, to stem the inflow of refugees to Europe, which is considered unbearable by the EU. Turkey has been the main route for refugees trying to cross into Europe since the beginning of the civil war in Syria. With the agreement, irregular arrivals decreased by around 99 percent, thus preventing the loss of many lives at sea.
The deal included a 6-billion-euro aid package to help Turkey care for millions of refugees hosted in the country, and the EU promised to initially allocate 3 billion euros in its first tranche to support Syrian refugees. The deal was also to provide visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to the Schengen area. However, this is yet to be implemented as relations between Turkey and the EU have been strained and await resolution.
Some EU countries have been dragging their feet on the second batch of financial aid to Turkey. At a meeting in Varna, Bulgaria late March, EU leaders promised President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that the second part would be handled soon.
Nonetheless, there has been speculation for some time in Brussels that there is deepening conflict behind the scenes as to who pays exactly what proportion of the bill.